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Doping is not the solution for a horse

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Doping can be defined as the administration of drugs (or use of other methods) to manipulate the performance of an athlete or the performance of an animal. Doping takes place in horseracing with the aims of stimulating the nervous or musculoskeletal system, depressing the performance of a horse so it loses in a race, or enhancing a horse’s physiological response to training (anabolic steroids, blood-building drugs and others). Sadly, the aim of doping can also be to mask the signs of pain and inflammation or the symptoms of disease, so that an unwell horse can get to the races and perform better than it would without the benefit of medication.

Worldwide on doping

Many drugs and toxins have absolutely no place in the legitimate medication of a racehorse.  These substances are treated as ‘zero tolerance substances’ and their detection at any level is internationally deemed to be a positive detection. The Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) has approved approximately 25 medications for therapeutic use in racehorses.

The widespread use of pharmaceuticals is unique to American horseracing and many believe it puts racehorses at greater risk of crippling injuries and death. Jockeys are also exposed to far greater risk, as medicated horses are much more likely to suffer catastrophic breakdowns during a race, exposing horses and riders to injury. In a series of articles on drugs and racing, The New York Times estimated that approximately 24 horses are killed because of injuries incurred during a race each week in America. It is not known how many of these deaths are linked to the misuse of medication.

In Britain, the Rules of Racing state that horses must race free of the effects of any drug but also that medication can be used in training to ensure their welfare.  With this in mind, trainers and their vets are provided with information about ‘withdrawal times’, which in turn depends upon reliable studies of medication to add to data from published literature and other sources, such as drug companies.  The Centre for Racehorse Studies at the British Racing School in Newmarket has been the backbone of scientifically based Detection Time advice since 2010.

The Australian Rule 178B contains a list of prohibited substances, which are considered any substance that is capable of acting directly or indirectly on any of the body systems.

The honest trainer

A horse trainer may have concerns about the clearance of a legitimate medical treatment prior to racing or has reason to believe that a horse may have been contaminated with prohibited substances. At Racing Victoria, trainers are assisted with this by facilitating the elective testing of samples collected from the horses. This will cost around $190 including GST per elective test. Only the declared medication or potential contaminant will be tested for. It is not possible to provide a ‘blanket screen’ for all prohibited substances.

Doping is cheating

Doping and cheating have appeared in more and more headlines lately, which is only good news in the sense that it indicates more and more transparency. Volkswagen’s emissions cheating did not harm any animals – not directly, anyway. As humans, we are responsible for the welfare of our animals. Horse doping is very seldom doing a horse any favours.

 

Sources

https://rv.racing.com/the-horse/veterinary-care/doping-control
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equine_drug_testing
http://www.britishhorseracing.com/resource-centre/anti-doping-medication-control/research-findings/

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